Skip to content

Documentary featuring A Girl Like Me blogger, Maria Mejia

June 18, 2012

Hi everyone,

We just wanted to share this short clip of a documentary about A Girl Like Me blogger, Maria Mejia, and her advocacy work and use of social media to promote HIV awareness and prevention messages. We look forward to the release of the full piece! Keep up the amazing work, Maria!

Living with HIV/AIDS: This is a message to the youth

June 14, 2012

I want to share this very important message with YOU! The youth! Please, HIV/AIDS is preventable. Your body is your temple and you have to take care of it! Use protection, love yourself and test yourself.

And no matter how much you think you love someone, no one is worth your life! HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. I don’t want any of you to go through what I have been through and going through..it’s a looooooooong disease and you don’t only have to worry about taking your meds that will make you feel tired every day of your life and take them NON-STOP!! But you have to deal with stigma, discrimination, the anxiety of bloodwork! ‘Is my medication working? Am I developing resistance? Is my viral load up? Are my Tcells down?’ …And so much more!!

PLEASE LISTEN TO MY MESSAGE AND SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

You are important! Even if you are in a household where you are being told you are a NOTHING! Or will never amount to anything! YOU ARE SOMEONE!

I am someone! Even though I was smashed since I was a little girl!  I was that worm that became a butterfly!

No matter what we all go through in life know we are worthy and we have to have self love.

AGAIN! HIV/AIDS is preventable! You don’t need this burden in life! Believe me…

I hope you all listen closely because HIV is here and just here alone in the Unites Stated 1 out of every 5 people have it and don’t know it. And every 9 1/2 minutes someone is getting infected!

Don’t be another statistic when all you have to do is wear protection! Look at me! I am the face of HIV/AIDS

I have been through it all:

sexual abuse

rape

abuse at home (verbal and mental)

running away from home and thrown out of all the foster homes you can think of

in and out of youth halls

in my gang

…and getting HIV from my first boyfriend at the age of 16 years old!

So, you see you can make it! You can be that butterfly (without the need of contracting HIV).

I always say from the biggest darkness comes the brightest lights .

Again, Love yourself, protect yourself and test yourself.

Living with HIV/AIDS: This is a message to the youth

En Espanol:

Viviendo con con el Vih/Sida. Este es un mensaje para la juventud

Much love and light,

Maria T Mejia

New blog post from Sonya in “Voices from our Allies”

June 7, 2012

Please welcome a new contributor to our Voices from our Allies page on A Girl Like Me, Sonya Mallard. Please scroll down to view her first blog “Erasing Stigma 1 Church at a Time“, as well as more about Sonya.

When HIV/AIDS first came out in the public eye, a lot of people of color automatically stigmatized HIV as a gay white disease. So they went around with this notion in their heads that they couldn’t possibly contract HIV.

As time went on, that notion was proven wrong. In the Black community, HIV/AIDS grew and grew and grew. And now we are living in a modern epidemic, in which 46% of Blacks are infected with HIV/AIDS. Every 9 ½ minutes someone in the United States is infected, and if the truth be told, Florida is #3 among the states, along with a waiting list for people who are positive for HIV medication!

Black male residents between the ages of 40 and 49 make up most of the residents that are infected, with nearly a 7 percent rate of infection. Why are we not getting the message to protect ourselves and each other?

Let’s try to start from the beginning. Back in the days of slavery, the church was a place of salvation for Black people; because it was the only place we as Black people could make the rules of our own place of worship. It was a place of sanctity for Black people to let loose life’s stresses and the stresses of working in the fields or homes of their owners.

Even years after slavery has ended, that place of worship still has remained a place to call home, a place to let go of life’s burdens and feel love and acceptance. But being gay quickly changes that love into hatred and that acceptance into rejection in the Black church. Today many Black gays don’t feel that the Black church provides that love and acceptance they so long to have.

If a Black gay person is born and raised in a church and that church rejects him or her, there may be damage that has to be repaired. There may be some self-esteem issues that the individual needs to deal with.

Think about it: The one institution that you held near and dear to your heart, mind and spirit has left you in the cold to suffer and die (spiritually). When that happens, sometimes people like to get their pleasures from other things like drinking, drugs or sex. Having your self-esteem diminished by an institution that you’ve trusted for so long can have powerful consequences — it can obliterate you from the inside out.

Unfortunately homophobic Black churches abound and you hear whispering like “any time somebody got to slap some grease on your behind, and stick something in you, it’s something wrong with that. Your butt is not made for that. [In the background, the church audience voices its approval.] You got blood vessels and membranes in your behind. And if you put something unnatural in there, it breaks them all up. …Lesbianism is about to take over our community. …We live in a time when our brothers and sisters have been so put down, can’t get a job, lot of the sisters making more money than brothers. And it’s creating problems in families. That’s one of the reasons our families’ are breaking up. And that’s one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbians.”

What I want to know is how can a church like this receive HIV/AIDS prevention grant money? Instead of spouting this sort of ugly hatred of gay people, what these churches need to do is help gay black men and women stand up and say, “I love myself too much to hurt myself or anyone else.” This is my plea to these churches — please help my brothers and sisters love themselves! And most importantly understand that we will be here to help and LOVE them!

Erasing Stigma One Voice At A Time!

About Sonya: Mrs. Sonya Mallard better known as “Ms Sonya Live” possess a desire to push one into their Destiny, and has an unabashed preference for the controversial. Ms. Sonya skillfully combines talk, news worthy events, interviews and motivation for people without missing a beat. The weekly show, Ms. Sonya Live is on 94.7 FM every Friday @5pm for two hours filled with Real Talk, Real Issues, with a Dose of Reality from the heart.  It features audience interaction and interviews with experts in the HIV field.  She is on a mission as a HIV Activist for the past 20 years and presently an HIV Educator/Tester with Project Response in Melbourne, Florida.  She has been Affected and not Infected with HIV, losing her best friend, Lynette Hart, to the disease.  Her greatest fulfillment comes when her students, clients, and audience members take action and make meaningful changes that transform their health, relationships, work, and spiritual lives. She is known for giving out condoms FREE and stationing condom bowls throughout drug infested neighborhoods, beauty stores, and night clubs to help decrease the disease.

Life isnt FAIR but it’s still GOOD

June 4, 2012

There were many a times when I often use to sigh and say “Why Me of all people”. What did I do to deserve it? Why should I have to undergo suffering at the cost of others? Worse, why do I have to “suffer” when all I did was good/benefit/happiness or cause for others? Fate has played a very cruel twist in my life, not once, not twice but many a times. At 3, I was differently abled (hearing handicapped) due to vehicular accident. Around the same time, my parent’s marriage was on a rocky patch and within a year they were divorced. While in school I was teased and taunted due to my speech. Thou I was good in studies and fetched better marks, I had very few friends due to my hearing issues. Nobody liked to be with me. I was like an ugly duckling, with thick rimmed glass, a wired hearing aid in both my ears with an instrument in my shirt left pocket, ugly ruff of thick dry hair which the back benchers in class take pleasures in throwing tiny paper balls at it. If it stuck and remained on the target, they win one mark. By the end of the period, I would find lot of paperballs behind my hair which would often make me cry silently on my seat.

No one would come to comfort me. At home too, living with a stepmother was equally not good. I would prefer to be out of the house most of the time. Though I hated school, I love going as it was the only solace to be away from home devoid of love and “want” of freedom. At home I would be mostly “locked” in my room , given stale food and at times with insects in them. Though I came from the wealthy, influential background and had servants at home, it was my stepmother who ruled. I had seen servants leave their job either because they were fired or because they couldn’t stand the tempers of my alcoholic stepmother. Dad was helpless in this case. Either he was too busy to notice the going-ons at the house and how much I was enduring the suffering OR my stepmother shielded all this away from his sight. I have often protested how much I lived under fear of my stepmother and how badly I wanted to stay in a hostel which would often fall in deaf ears. But he could not do anything. My wild guess was that he did not want to lose his second wife. He didn’t want his second marriage to collapse again. So to hold on to her, he would often ignore me. But then he was a caring loving father. He gave me whatever I wanted in terms of things. He sent me to best schools and even hired a tutor for me to teach. But what I lacked was “love”. Love from my mom, love from my stepmom, love from my stepsiblings, love from my friends during my childhood days. I often would look forward to summer/winter vacation to come so that dad would take me to paternal home where I would have a whale of time being with my grandparents who showered all their love, care and affection on me. My grandmother would be surprised at my huge appetite. I use to gorge down on food and would overeat and leave not even a morsel of whatever has been cooked. I would do that coz I knew once the holiday ends, I would be back at the four walls of my room which is more like a prison to me with just old stale cornflakes (with tiny insects swarming in the milk) for breakfast–and for dinner, it was milk and bread. Lunch was a luxury where I would get to eat good food prepared by servants but would be given in a less quantity to me. I was too scared to ask my stepmom for more. On Sundays, when dad was at home, depending on the mood, he would cook up my favourite dishes, put the plate in my room and then leave. I never had a “family” time. I never had an experience of eating together like a family. And since the whole day I would be locked up in my room, I never had a freedom to roam around my house either.

I had a love marriage which too failed in the matter of 4 years. (Please refer to “Living with HIV” , the first post, for more). I fell in love 3 years after my divorce to a guy who made me feel so happy once again. He was my world, my everything. He made me feel beautiful, inside out. He made me feel complete. He made me dream. He gave me strength. He gave me the colours to add in my life. But my only mistake was to hide my status from him, which cost us the relationship. If I had told him earlier, I wouldn’t have been in love with him and we would have been just friends and hence I would have saved myself from rejection and hurt. I would have saved myself from pains and sufferings. I would have saved myself from the agonies that comes with being HIV+, where all negative things start controlling ur mind. In our two months of being in love, a circumstance made me disclose my status to him. He was aghast. He felt betrayed. He felt cheated. Then for the next 3 months he disappeared from my life only to reappear again, not as by boyfriend anymore but as a friend. As a good friend. And he did all that he could to prove his friendship. He took care of my medicines as I was not financially capable to do so. He took me to the best doctors. He made sure that I never go a day without a medicine. I lost a beautiful love that we shared, a love with a bright promising future of being together. But again I retained his friendship in form of compassion and generousity. This has been the most painful moment for me. Having a person you love but in a different form now, knowing that he will never be yours, knowing that he would eventually marry someone else where I had dreamt to be, well, if that is not a painful situation to face then what is?

I wish life had been easier. But then, if it had been easier, maybe then I would never have learnt to be stronger in my pains. My every hellish moment of my life was moulding my character, my personality and above all, my heart. Thru all these journeys of my life, I have realised many things (although copied, it makes a strong INSPIRATION) :

1) I have realised that LONELIER u feel, the lonelier the world makes you FEEL.

2) I have realised that words had HURT me more than the I have SUFFERED in life.

3) I have realised that BROADER the smile, DEEPER may be the wounds inside.

4) I have realised that no matter how many times I pray, I only get what I RIGHTFULLY DESERVE.

5) I have realised that when I am ECSTATIC about something, there are never enough PEOPLE to to SHARE it with.

6) I have realised that a FACE is not as important as it is made to be believed. HEART is.

7) I have realised that it is not always a COWARD who gives up a fight. Sometimes SMART people too.

8) I have realised that you can’t JUDGE others unless you wear their SHOEs.

9) I have realised that one person’s MISERY is another person’s MERRIMENT.

10) I have realised that every REALTIONSHIP has an EXPIRY DATE.

11) I have realised that TEARS convey more that what WORDS can ever say

12) I have realised that SMILING ALL THE TIME can really hurt.

Thus life has taught me so many things. It had made me, moulded me, helped me. There are still lots to learn. But the better part???? I still believe that despite all this, despite the truamas, the sorrows, the grief, the pains, the sufferings, the hurt, the misery, the agony…..the BEST is yet to come!

ASO Training

June 1, 2012

My sister and I recently attended a volunteer training session with a local AIDS Service Organization (ASO). To be honest, before I became positive, I had no idea what an ASO even was! The training was interesting and allowed me to see some of the service areas that the ASO provides in the community. They not only help those infected with HIV/AIDS, but also reach out to the community as a whole. They do so much more than I expected, including a political portion to maintain active within the political aspect of things; a religious portion to reach out to local churches for help and acceptance; an event portion which helps plan events and fundraisers; an outreach portion to educate the community and also a client focused portion, which helps those directly infected/affected with HIV/AIDS.

The training session was particularly uplifting to me to see the amount of people who were learning to be volunteers. There were probably 15-20 people, which I think is awesome (especially considering it was a Thursday evening for 3 hours)!

I must admit, though, as we went around the room introducing ourselves and stating “why” we were there, I froze. I heard several people say that they were there for Peace Corps training, several people with other local organizations, and even several people who were HIV positive and wanted to give back. Obviously that is precisely the reason I was there, yet I couldn’t say that. I simply could not say that I was HIV positive and wanted to help other women infected/affected by this disease. I felt hot, sweaty and my nerves were getting the best of me. All I could say was that I hoped to give back to women, who didn’t seem to have an equal voice in the HIV community.

I felt like this was an opportunity (a fairly safe opportunity at that) to admit my status. Yet, I disappointed myself and could not mention my status. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t disclose to a room full of people who were obviously there to support people with HIV. But I did not….and I need to work on this. Hopefully, as I become more involved with the ASO, I will become more comfortable with disclosure.

One more thing

May 25, 2012

I am gearing up this summer to try to get so much done before school starts again. I swear there is just one more thing to do, just one. Will I spend quality time with my kids, or will there be just one more thing to do? Will I spend more quality time with my husband, or I have to do just one more thing.

If we spend our life just doing that one more thing, who will they remember when we are gone? Will they be able to describe our beautiful face and are infectious laugh? Or will they be able to describe the backs of our heads as we are leaving to do that one more thing.

I sat down to write this and it really didn’t turn out how I had thought. I think I needed to hear it from myself.

We all have an opportunity that many don’t. We realize that at any moment our lives can be dramatically changed. So when you are invited to a family BBQ and you just don’t want to go, GO! There may not be a next time. When your children want you to play with them… Stop what you are doing and play!!! Spend time with the people that love you. If you don’t, they might end up the ones that have one more thing to do, and it might not include you.

Jae

Why won’t people wake up!!! The HIV rooster has been crowing for a while now!!

May 23, 2012

I recently encountered the harsh reality of the stigma that goes along with being HIV+ once again. One of my bestest (lol) friends was accused of being HIV+ because she hangs out with me. I often forget just how horrible people see me sometimes until it creeps up like this. I have to remember that being open about my status, in hopes of opening some eyes, there are sometimes consequences that tag along with this. People are STILL very ignorant to the subject and choose to not educate themselves because they don’t feel they have to. My biggest fear is that my children will be ridiculed for having a mother that is HIV+. Kids tend to follow what their parents teach them and by what they see.

This is going to sound REALLY crazy but I can remember at the age of 14-15 my mom had “The Talk” with me and told me about many of the diseases out there and that if I ever got AIDS, as she worded it, there would be nothing she could do. Seems really scarey to me to look back and remember that talk. As a teenager I thought “that won’t happen to me”, “only slutty girls, gay guys. and IV drug users get it”. There was education back then but not like we have today. Teenagers still have the mentality that “It won’t happen to me” just as I did over 20 years ago.

I wish so badly to be able to reach out and touch folks and put it in their faces that HIV is still very real and that there are many people each and everyday being infected. Then the fear of ridicule sits in. The stigma reaches out and grabs my heart and rips it out. I am who I am and even with the ignorance of some, I will still continue to march on and share my story in hopes of reaching someone. I know I need to stand tall with my head held high because I have been infected for as long as I have and not been truly sick. I can only pray that the barriers will crumble down and folks will take this virus serious and all it takes is one time to become infected.

Having the support of all of you has greatly helped me, I’m not feeling alone amongst all the HIV negative friends I have. I am unsure of how much more I can do to get people to listen to me. I have still had friends and family, after knowing about me and how I was infected, still go out and have unprotected sex. It is so frustrating to me. It seems that they won’t take it serious unless I am sick or not feeling well and even then that’s a reach. Not sure how we can all help get rid of this ridicule and stigma but it will not be for a lack of trying on my part. Much love to you all!!! Thank you for letting me vent lol